Case name: Tims v. J.D. Kitts Construction, No. 4840 (S.C. Ct. App. 06/15/11).
The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to benefits for a heat stroke.
What it means: In South Carolina, every natural consequence flowing from a work-related compensable injury is also compensable unless the consequence is the result of an independent, intervening cause sufficient to break the chain of causation. Here, the worker's heat stroke, resulting from being trapped in a hot car, was caused by his work-related quadriplegia.
Summary: A construction worker fell from a 12-foot scaffold and sustained a spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia. The construction company began providing home health care services as prescribed by his treating physician. A caregiver took him to a store at his request. While there, the caregiver realized that she lost her keys. She left the worker in the back seat of her car while she went to look for them. The air conditioner of the car was turned off. When they returned to the worker's home, the worker was unconscious. The worker was diagnosed as being in a coma due to heat stroke. The worker sought benefits related to the heat stroke. The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that the worker was entitled to benefits.
The company asserted that the worker's decision to ride in the caretaker's car on a hot day was unreasonable and broke the chain of causation. The court disagreed. The court said that the worker's compensable quadriplegia caused his heat stroke because it prevented him from being able to remove himself from the overheated car. Also, his quadriplegic condition continued up to, during, and after the heat stroke. The worker could not have predicted that his caretaker would leave him in the car while she went to look for her keys, so his decision was not unreasonable.
The company also argued that the caretaker's negligence was unforeseeable and broke the chain of causation. The court said the negligence of the caretaker was a foreseeable consequence of his condition. The worker's treating physicians recommended excursions for his emotional well-being. The court explained that injuries due to the negligence of nonphysicians connected with treatment are compensable consequences of the original work-related injury.
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August 4, 2011
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